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Chinese drones helping Pak army curb dissent in Balochistan, protect its investments
Balochistan: China is helping the Pakistan Army curb dissent in Balochistan in order to protect its investments in the region, but in the long run, such developments will have implications for regional security, writes Federico Giuliani in Insideover.
Pakistan Army launched Operation 'Bolan', a large-scale military operation in the mountain ranges of Bolan, Balochistan at the end of October 2022. The operation in Bolan came after the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) issued an ultimatum for prisoner swap talks with the Pakistan Army. That this operation against the BLA was in the offing is evident as China had been pressurising the Shehbaz Sharif government about the safety and security of Chinese personnel working in Balochistan, said Giuliani.
While the Pakistani Army has used fighter jets and armed helicopters against Baloch rebels for several years, a new development of note has been the use of combat UAVs.
Faiz M Baluch, editor of the online news website Balochwarna and the UK-based treasurer of the Free Balochistan Movement (FBM) claimed "China is assisting Pakistan in many ways. It provides technology to Pakistan. We believe that China is assisting Pakistan in tracing the locations of the Baloch fighters. China is complicit in the Baloch genocide. In February, at least ten Baloch fighters were killed in a drone attack in Hoshab, Turbat, in the Makran region. We strongly believe that China assisted Pakistan in the drone attack as it is not that capable".
The Balochistan Post tweeted that China and Turkey have supplied various models of combat UAVs to Pakistan. According to the information on Twitter and Pakistan-based defence blogs, Chinese CH-4B UAVs have been spotted over Bolan.
Pakistan received five Cai Hong 4 (Rainbow 4, or CH-4) multirole medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs from China in January 2021. A Chinese PLA detachment based in Pasni, Gwadar helps the Pakistani military operate these CH-4B drones, reported Insideover.
Notably, China is developing the Port of Gwadar under the China-Pakistan Economic Agreement (CPEC), a premise for deploying PLA troops in the region.
Pakistan's use of combat drones against Baloch insurgents is yet another example of militaries turning to drones for combat purposes after watching the deployment of UAVs in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Pakistan has also received the Bayraktar Akinci and TB2 drones from Turkey.
The current situation arose when BLA claimed (25 September 2022) that its fighters had cornered two Pakistani agents, Kaleem Ullah and Muhammad Faisal Basheer, in an intelligence-based operation in Harnai district of Balochistan.
The two prisoners were brought before the 'Baloch National Court' where the BLA senior command unanimously decided that by following the international laws of war, as enshrined in the Geneva Convention, two prisoners would be swapped with the Pakistani state for detained Baloch political activists, said Giuliani.
After this, the Pakistan Army launched an operation where one of the two participating helicopters was shot down. The BLA accepted responsibility for detaining the mentioned persons, attacking the coal trucks, and shooting down the helicopter.
The Pakistani military has long been accused of excesses committed against the people of Balochistan. According to a report in The Balochistan Post, the Human Rights Council of Balochistan received 41 cases of enforced disappearance and thirty cases of extrajudicial executions in Balochistan in October 2022.
The latest operations by the Pakistan Army in Balochistan are fresh instances of the alleged continued persecution of the Baloch people.
The new dimension is the introduction of drones, of Chinese origin, being seen in the conflict zone, said Giuliani.
China is one of the world's largest manufacturers of drones. For it to supply such platforms to its all-weather friend is a natural consequence of ties.
However, far more dangerous is the presence of PLA detachments in Balochistan which appear to be helping Pak forces fly such drones.
In the long run, such developments will have implications for regional security, reported Insideover. (ANI)